• Trump Gotta Trump
• Democrats Stake Out Position on Police Reform
• The Veepstakes Continues
• Ossoff Will Try to Advance Today
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
When (Z) teaches the U.S. history survey, he takes students through the various eras of modern U.S. history on the first day so they are familiar with the basic contours of the period (e.g., 1865-1870s Reconstruction, 1870s-early 1900s Gilded Age, early 1900s-1917 Progressive Era, 1917-19 World War I, etc.). That discussion always concludes with the observation that since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been in the "modern era," which is just a placeholder name until the big storyline of our time becomes clear. In 50 years, it could turn out we were all living in the Information Age, or the Second Cold War, or the Age of Trump (after all, the only period in U.S. history named for a person is the Jacksonian Era, named for the Trump-like Andrew Jackson). Many times in class, and a few times on this site, (Z) has suggested that the conditions may be ripe for a New Progressive Era. The events of the past few weeks have done nothing to move him off that position.
We are hardly the only ones grappling with this question right now, and there are a plethora of op-eds and other pieces out there right now that adopt a tone that ranges from cautious to outright skeptical. "America convulses amid a week of protests, but can it change?" wonders one article, "Dare we believe that this time will be different?" asks another, and "Protesters hope this is a moment of reckoning for American policing. Experts say not so fast," warns a third. Such caution/skepticism is understandable, since transformative change is very rare, while the status quo is called that for a reason. Suspecting that things aren't likely to change much is like suspecting the Chicago Cubs won't win the World Series this year: 99 times out of 100, you're correct.
And yet, there is much in common between the current moment and the circumstances that propelled the success of the two most successful reform movements in U.S. history, the aforementioned progressives and the civil rights movement. Another point that comes up often in a U.S. history survey is that change comes slowly, and the impetus for it has to build up over time, often generations (or even centuries). Driving the Progressives forward were long-term provocations (women's second-class status, the difficult situation of the American working class, certain forms of racial oppression), medium-term provocations (the ills of the Gilded Age), and the tipping-point incidents that finally lit the fuse (the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Great Anthracite Coal Strike, etc.). The civil rights movement had a similar dynamic of long-term (350-plus years of racism, enslavement, and segregation) and medium-term (being shut out of post-World War II prosperity, the general pressures of the Cold War) provocations, coupled with a few key tipping points (the arrest of Rosa Parks, the murder of Emmett Till, etc.).
Today, there are several obvious provocations that have been simmering for generations (or longer). Obviously, "350-plus years of racism, enslavement, and segregation" still holds, except replace "350-plus" with "400-plus," and note that the effects extend to nearly all people of color. There's also climate change and the degradation of the environment, which has a lot of people very frightened for the future. That may seem to be pretty far afield from George Floyd, and yet to many, both are clear examples of the establishment looking the other way so as to avoid dealing with a seemingly intractable problem whose solution would be strongly opposed by various groups of people. A third major provocation is America's wealth gap, which has been growing for generations (and which affects people of color disproportionately, thus aggravating provocation #1). There are a large number of compelling visual representations out there, but this is one of the simplest:
This is unsustainable, long term. Anyone who thinks otherwise would do well to read a book about the Russian Revolution. Or the French Revolution, for that matter. Or the Iranian Revolution. Or the Cuban Revolution.
The most important medium-term provocation, meanwhile, is a dysfunctional government. To some extent, the concern that the modern-day federal government serves the lobbyists and the business interests dates back to Dwight D. Eisenhower and his warnings of a military-industrial complex. Making things much worse, however, was a conscious decision made 25 or so years ago by folks like Newt Gingrich that compromise was for suckers and that gridlock and dysfunction are a feature, not a bug. The ensuing game of tit-for-tat, egged on by hyper-partisan media, as well as by foreign actors who would like to see America burn, means that the country is as polarized as it's been in a long time, and maybe as polarized as it's ever been. It also means that, at any given time, about half of the American people think the current government does not represent them and is, indeed, more like an enemy. The folks who support Donald Trump managed to build up and sustain their rage for the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency (if not longer), and even though they are now "in power," the rage is still there:
For most non-Trump folks, the shoe has now been on the other foot for three-plus years as they have watched the Donald tear at the fabric of the country. If people could stay that mad for that long about the basically non-provocative Barack Obama, it seems very plausible that the anti-Trump faction can stay that mad for just as long, given how much fuel #45 has thrown on the fire, and particularly when presented with one or more short-term provocations to light the fuse.
The question, then, is whether or not George Floyd's death is going to be that provocation—another Triangle Shirtwaist or Emmett Till. There is no way to know for sure, but the early returns suggest this may be the 1 in 100 rather than the 99 in 100. Already, there is overwhelming evidence of a shift in public opinion when it comes to racism, in particular. Polling shows that support for the current protests is in the high 80s, even among white people. Just four years ago, after Ferguson, it was in the mid-60s. There's now an overwhelming consensus that black people are more likely to be targeted by police, and are more likely to be victims of excessive violence. To a very large extent, the core argument of Black Lives Matter has become mainstream, and now the discussion has moved on to what to do about it.
There have also been a great many victories in smaller, symbolic struggles. It looks like the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, a source of aggravation for black folks since it was first unveiled, and a subject of controversy for decades, is coming down. The city of Fredericksburg, VA, finally removed an auction block that was used for generations to auction slaves. The good people of Bristol, UK did not bother to wait for their government to act, and tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and tossed it into a river. The U.S. Army is likely going to rename bases whose names honor Confederate leaders. Meanwhile, the mighty National Football League, which always has its finger on the pulse, has done a 180 on kneeling during the National Anthem, and apologized for its past stance. Given the league's core fanbase, that is...instructive.
Meanwhile, those who misread the tenor of the moment have faced backlash and significant consequences. The New York Times, ostensibly in the interest of "fostering debate," ran Sen. Tom Cotton's (R-AR) op-ed that argued it's appropriate to use the U.S. Armed Forces against American citizens. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a feature piece on architecture with the clever headline "Buildings Matter, Too!" High-ranking editors at both papers were compelled to resign within about 12 hours of each other this weekend. Other businesses that thought this was a joking matter (for example, CrossFit) have quickly been abandoned by their sponsors and/or customers. At least a dozen "hot take"-style radio hosts have been suspended or fired for making variants of the "if black people don't want cops to harass them, then they shouldn't put themselves in a position to be harassed" argument.
This is an item for a political site because a large majority certainly seems to have decided that there is a clear "right" side and a clear "wrong" side here. If so, those who stick with the wrong side do so at their own (electoral) peril. Donald Trump is not going to change, but a dozen or so Republican senators up for reelection may soon have to choose between pleasing him or pleasing the majority of their constituents. Meanwhile, it seems possible that some real change could result from this; with no less than Barack Obama declaring "I know enough about that history to say, there is something different here." If that change is limited to wiping away some of the shameful legacy of slavery, then that is still a big win. But the good thing about reform is that while it is slow in coming, it tends to be contagious once it arrives. So this could indeed be the dawn of a New Progressive Era. (Z)
John Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election, in significant part, because the Republicans managed to persuade people he's a flip-flopper whose position on the issues went wherever the winds blew. Whatever one might say about Donald Trump, he's no John Kerry. He sticks to his guns even when doing so is...unwise. Emerson once said that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." By that standard, the Donald might be the smallest-minded president in American history.
This weekend, Team Trump released an ad entitled "Healing, Not Hatred." Here it is; if seeing it holds your interest, you should watch it while you still can:
It's designed to mimic the speech Bobby Kennedy gave after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., to which we alluded a couple of times last week. The President's AV team even added a fake echo, mirroring the real one heard in RFK's speech because it was delivered outdoors. And for the first minute of the video, it seems like Trump finally gets it, and has figured out that now is not the time for threats and angry rhetoric. "Maybe too late, but overall not too bad, especially for him" was our thought while listening to that portion. But at the one-minute point (actually, 0:58, if you want to be precise), Trump shifts into a lengthy screed about rioters, looters, anarchists, Antifa, and the usual list of bugaboos, real and (mostly) imagined.
Much has been made about how frightened Republicans are when it comes to crossing the President, but that may be nothing compared to how terrified Trump is when it comes to upsetting his base. He is completely uninterested in showing empathy for black people (or anyone else of color); that first 58 seconds exists only to make the screed that follows socially acceptable ("What happened to George Floyd was sad, but that DOES NOT justify..."). If there was any question about this, Trump has also made no effort to speak with any protesters, or to visit Minneapolis. Both would be automatic for any other president.
Another way in which the President is unable to change his ways, incidentally, is the Trump family tradition of plagiarism. The reason that the above video may not last for long is that Team Trump used images from various people's Instagram feeds without permission. Copyright claims were filed, and Twitter and—gasp!—Facebook have already taken it down. Surely, YouTube (part of the Google empire) is soon to follow.
Anyhow, the upshot is that Trump is all out on empathy, unity, or any of the other things we generally see in presidents
in these circumstances. Meanwhile, he's all in on the usual playbook of making his base fearful and angry. Here is the body
of the e-mail the White House sent to supporters on Monday night:
The president's rhetoric, and his e-mail certainly have shades of the infamous Willie Horton ad, designed to make white people frightened of what will happen if black people are not properly policed (read: suppressed). Maybe it will work but, as we argue above, this sort of pitch does not seem to match well with the current historical moment. Lee Atwater, who created the Willie Horton ad, was a political genius who knew what would work for his client at that moment in time, although he apologized for his overt racism on his deathbed. Whether Brad Parscale has Atwater's feel for the moment remains to be seen. (Z)
The people who run the Democratic Party are no dummies. They've been at this game a long time, well before Donald Trump got involved, and even well before he was hosting reality shows and bankrupting casinos. They know full well that the President has no interest in resolving the issues that George Floyd's death shone a light upon, nor any idea how to do so, even if he did have an interest. Between that, the base he's kowtowing to, and his "foolish consistency," his playing the fear card was a move that could be seen coming from a mile away.
And so, as Trump makes his (clumsy) move, the Democrats are making their counter-moves. They know well that "reform the police" is now squarely in the center of the Overton Window for the majority of the American people. They also know that "defund the police" is at the very edge of the Window, at best, especially since its less-than-instructive name suggests that there would be nobody left to prevent crime, violent and otherwise.
As part of the Democrats' maneuvering there is, as we noted yesterday, the House bill that envisions sweeping improvements in police training and accountability, but stops short of "defunding." Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) officially unveiled the bill on Monday. She has no expectation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will actually take up the bill for consideration when it passes the House, but the very existence of the legislation has the twin benefits of: (1) Making clear exactly where the national Democratic Party stands (i.e., police reform, not defunding), and (2) Sending a message about what change might happen if the Democrats gain the Senate and the White House (and what change most certainly won't happen if the Republicans retain control of either).
Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign announced on Monday that he supports major reform of police departments, and he really likes the House bill, but that he does not support defunding. It's almost like he and Pelosi are speaking to each other on a regular basis and coordinating their messaging.
It is certainly possible that this issue could divide the Democratic Party in the way that, say, "extend Obamacare" vs. "Medicare for All" did. That is to say, it could put Biden and other Democrats running for office this year in the position of either scaring off moderates (by going too far in one direction) or angering lefties and/or people of color (by going too far in the other). However, the Party does have the good fortune that policing is largely a municipal (or county) function. And so, Biden, Pelosi, et al. can plausibly thread the needle by explaining that "These are the minimum reforms we are willing to accept, and if local communities decide that going even further is what is best for them, then we support their right to make that decision." Biden will also be able to signal that he is "right" on this issue by picking a black running mate, which is surely why the current frontrunners are all from that demographic (see below). (Z)
Joe Biden has said he expects to select a running mate around Aug. 1. That means we have about 7 more weeks of speculation, rumors, and alleged shifts in the list of leading candidates. It is worth keeping in mind that any reports on this subject right now fall into one of two categories: (1) people who are in the know, and are leaking a name or two to gauge the response, and (2) people who are not in the know, and are just making their best guess. In other words, any name you hear right now should be taken with multiple fistfuls of salt.
This weekend, for example, the word was that the nomination was Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-CA) to lose. There is simply no way her position is actually that strong. First of all, nobody with actual influence in the Biden campaign would make a commitment that firm. Further, Harris' background as a prosecutor is potentially a real problem, given the current unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd. The Senator simply cannot be the candidate until there's clarity about the extent to which her résumé is a liability, and how effectively she can turn that into a strength (e.g., "I know policing from the inside, so I know how to fix what's wrong.")
As Sunday turned to Monday, two other names were reportedly shooting up the list. The first is Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), whose home state and less controversial law enforcement record could make her a more appealing alternative than Harris. The second is someone who was only on the periphery of the radar until just a few weeks ago, namely Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D). Her response to the last two weeks' events has basically been pitch-perfect, and has received favorable commentary nationwide. She's young (50), comes from a swing state with two key Senate races this year, and, as a bonus, has developed a reputation for poking Donald Trump in the eye with a sharp stick. These are precisely the characteristics Biden needs in his running mate.
There's still plenty of time for this contest to take some twists and turns, but it seems pretty clear that "black woman" is currently at the top of Biden's wish list. Meanwhile, moderate Midwestern white women, particularly those with law enforcement backgrounds, look to be on the verge of dropping off the radar entirely. (Z)
There aren't a whole lot of really interesting or consequential primary contests left, but there is one in Georgia today. Jon Ossoff (D), famous for raising more money than any House candidate in history and then falling short anyhow, is hoping to win the right to face Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in November. The good news for Ossoff is that polls have him easily leading all the other aspiring Democrats. The bad news is that the polls peg his support around 40%, and he would need to exceed 50% to avoid a runoff against the #2 finisher. Odds are he doesn't do it, and the nomination won't be decided until a runoff scheduled for Aug. 11.
The other Georgia U.S. Senate race is not on the ballot today because that one is for the permanent replacement of Johnny Isakson (R), who resigned last year due to poor health. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) to his seat, but now she has to get the voters to approve. After her stock-trading scandal, that seems questionable at best. It will be resolved in either the jungle primary on Nov. 3 or, more likely, the runoff on Jan. 5, 2021. Also, Karen Handel (R)—the person who vanquished Ossoff in that high-priced House race—is looking to regain her seat after having been herself vanquished by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) in 2018. Like Ossoff, Handel will need to get 50% of the vote in her primary, or else will face a runoff in August.
There are also primaries in South Carolina, Nevada, North Dakota and West Virginia today. The most high-profile election in those four states is the Senate contest in West Virginia. There, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) will certainly advance to the general election, while a trio of Democrats will vie for the right to face off against her. Paula Jean Swearengin, who tried to primary Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in 2018, has the most money by a large margin. Former state Sen. Richard Ojeda probably has the highest name recognition, by virtue of his brief 2020 presidential campaign. Former mayor of South Charleston Richie Robb has the most experience in public office, having served 32 years in that post (1975-2007). There's been no polling of the race, so who knows which will prevail? The good news for the winner is that West Virginia does not require a runoff; whoever gets the most votes wins. The bad news is that they are going to be crushed by Capito in the general election because West Virginia is such a deep red state.
Beyond GA-06, there are a number of House races that the DCCC and NRCC will be watching closely. The red team thinks they have a shot of unseating Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) in SC-01 and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) in NV-03, for example, while the blue team thinks they might be able to grab the open seat in GA-07. The party pooh-bahs have favored candidates in each of these primaries.
And finally, as is generally the case with this month's primaries, the success (or lack thereof) of vote-by-mail will be part of the story. Georgia, for its part, has barely started processing the ballots it's received, and yet says the state has already set a record for turnout in a primary election. (Z)
Who knows what Amber Integrated is doing polling ruby-red Oklahoma? Maybe drumming up some business. In any case, it confirmed what everyone already knew: The only state that never had a single county go for Barack Obama is going to be casting its electoral votes for Donald Trump. This poll will presumably be the last one of Oklahoma for a long time. Maybe for the rest of the cycle.
Meanwhile, the poll of Kentucky also confirms exactly what we would expect, which wouldn't be interesting, except for the concurrent Senate poll they ran (see below). (Z)
Mitch McConnell's approval ratings at home are dismal, in part because he has a lousy image (shady, corrupt) and in part because he spends his time on things other than attending to the needs of Kentuckians. In particular, he is very attentive to the desires of wealthy Republican donors who want tax cuts and then more tax cuts, something of little use to most Kentuckians. Kentucky ranks as the nation's seventh poorest state, with only Alabama, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia being worse off. Tax cuts for people who own Kentucky-Derby-winning horses isn't a priority for most of them.
It was possible that the Majority Leader could be vulnerable to a strong opponent this year, and now, he may actually be in some danger. Normally, we wouldn't pay too much heed to one poll, particularly from a nondescript pollster. However, their presidential number (see above) passes the smell test with flying colors. Clearly, their model of the electorate was not completely wonky, and equally clearly, there are folks in Kentucky who currently plan to vote for Donald Trump but not McConnell. If that contingent grows too large, the Senate Majority Leader could find himself a former senator on Nov. 4. (Z)
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun08 Trump Got a Wall and a Crowd
Jun08 Voters: Things Are Out of Control
Jun08 Republican Leaders Are Beginning to Part Ways with Trump
Jun08 Republican Leaders Are Worried that Trump Will Cost Them the Senate
Jun08 House Democrats Are Working on a Police Reform Bill
Jun08 Young Black Voters Might Stay Home on Election Day, or Maybe Not
Jun08 Sanders Is a Team Player This Time
Jun08 Sanders Has No Coattails
Jun08 Vote Counting Is Still Going on in Pennsylvania
Jun08 Poisoning Is Way Up
Jun08 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun08 Today's Senate Polls
Jun07 COVID-19 Diaries, Sunday Edition
Jun07 Sunday Mailbag
Jun06 Biden Clinches It
Jun06 Saturday Q&A
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Jun06 Today's Senate Polls
Jun05 On Protests and Riots
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Jun05 Another Lousy Poll for Trump
Jun05 Zoom, Zoom, Zoom...
Jun05 "Send My Ballot to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"
Jun05 China and Iran Are Already Busy Hacking the Election
Jun05 COVID-19 Diaries, Friday Edition
Jun05 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun05 Today's Senate Polls
Jun04 Esper Doesn't Want the Army to Fight Americans...
Jun04 ...and Jim Mattis Agrees
Jun04 The CIA Is Worried--about America
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Jun04 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun04 Today's Senate Polls
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Jun03 ...Trump, Not So Much
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